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Killer Executed in North Carolina

January 30, 1998

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) _ A man convicted of killing a teen-ager after raping her and digging her grave as she listened from the trunk of his car was executed in the gas chamber early Friday.

Ricky Lee Sanderson, 38, was pronounced dead at 2:19 a.m. after inhaling cyanide gas fumes at Central Prison.

Sanderson was in jail serving a life term for two rapes when he confessed to killing 16-year-old Sue Ellen Holliman in 1985. The confession led to the 1986 release of another man police had held as a suspect for nine months.

Prosecutors said Sanderson kidnapped the girl on March 14, 1985, after attempting to break into her home to get money to buy drugs. Evidence showed that he locked Miss Holliman in the trunk and drove around using drugs.

He drove to a remote field and dug her grave as she scratched at the trunk hatch. He then raped her, before strangling and stabbing her to death.

Sanderson, who went through three sentencing hearings, asked in 1992 that appeals be dropped so his execution could proceed.

Sanderson said he became a Christian while in prison after reading about a condemned man’s conversion in South Carolina. He said after his conversion, he knew the right thing to do was to confess.

``I’m not doing this for glory,″ he said. ``I’m doing this because I want people to know that God can take a monster like me and turn ‘em around, give ’em a new heart.″

Condemned inmates in North Carolina may select how they will die.

Sanderson is the second person to choose death by gas since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. North Carolina has executed eight other inmates since then, seven by injection.